Including his poems and travelogues among many other hats, Ibn-e-Insha has also been regarded as one of the best humorists of Urdu. 'Urdu Ki Akhari Kitab' is one of his brilliant work touching on our education system. Though he wrote this book a few decades ago, but it unfortunately continues to be relevant even today. I'd the honour to watch (once again Danish Husain) a play with the same title at Prithvi theatre, Mumbai.
My short-term interest in primary education was inculcated in college while interning at one of the Aga Khan Schools in Dongri, and at TISS with Jeroo Billimoria. I have this paper-back thin worn out book, Urdu ki Akhari Kitab, somewhere in back of my book shelf that I'd bought on my way back from first ever trip to Agra .... would read everything on education system from Paulo Freire, Jean Dreze to Ibn-e-Insha and Pierre Bourdieu.
Those days I was working with Pratham Education Foundation, Mumbai assisting the the Shatak Zhep programme i.e. making Maths a fun subject through play-way in primary municipal schools of Mumbai. Yet, it was just one incident that changed my decision to discontinue interest in education - that early morning of July when I got stuck in one of Pratham's selected Ghatkopar municipal schools in Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in 1997. The first-hand experience of seeing violence in my fieldwork area was enough for me to change my career trajectory to move out of Mumbai, and focus on tribal development.
Danish Husain super brilliantly directs this play bringing in soft touches of contemporary issues. He acted along with Yasir Iftikhar Khan. The 70 min performance could be categorised as a satire, or stand-up type comedies. Doesn't matter how you identify, it is all about putting the dose in a small capsule that makes you laugh even if its a bitter truth.
Let me put it this way, I was a bit baffled at times when audience continued to laugh... In fact, in the last scene - where one of the characters sitting among the audience challenge Husain and runs behind him to attack - I was wondering what's so hilarious in this, but perhaps that's the reality too, that we continue to laugh even in real life incidences around us! Satirical to the core.
Both Iftikhar Khan and Danish Husain will steal your heart.. i.e. if you allow yourself by being in the show!
You don't need to read the book before you watch this show.. the actors will explain you all about the style Ibn-e-Insha adopted such as asking a few questions after each chapter of History, Science, Maths, Geography...
Varun Gupta on tabla and Shantanu Helrekar on harmonium deliver spot on music. Shantanu's vocal could actually beat Tan Sen - amazing voice. All songs/poems are brilliantly lined up in the script.
The use of audiovisuals in the background kind of merges with the mood of the theme that is presented.
Good work by Danish Husain in giving the due recognition to Ibn-e-Insha's this piece of work, and building those lost connections of our cultural geography.